Saturday, April 04, 2009
CONFESSIONS OF A NERDLING - PART 2
I was roughly 9-years old, raised in a loving Christian home, and certainly well aware of right and wrong, but did that stop me from performing my share of evil deeds? Nuh-uh...
The Dennis's, our neighbors, had a nice little dog named Susie, a black, fluffy, lovable mutt. Often, they would leave for long weekends to visit their daughter and leave me in charge of Susie. All it entailed was my unlocking their front door, walking inside, and filling up Susie's food and water bowl, then taking her outside for her "period of duty". This I did three or four times a day. I enjoyed my "job", as it gave me a sense of responsibility and, well, shoot, I liked Susie. She was a nice mutt.
I also liked the Dennis house. The year was 1957, and there were no what you'd call terribly nice houses on my street, even though we had lake property -- except for the Dennis house. I considered them rich--even though by today's standards they'd probably fall in the near-poverty category. Still, they had a moderate size kitchen, fair size living room, two whole bedrooms, and inside plumbing. Definitely, they were rich by my standards! We were among the few who still had an outhouse at the back of our property. (Maybe I'll tell you about that in another "confessions" episode.)
On this particular visit to tend to Susie's needs, I spent a bit more time than necessary keeping Susie company. My parents were home watching The Red Skelton Hour, and I knew they wouldn't miss me. I don't know, something just came over me, and I had this strong need to explore the Dennis house. They had nice chairs and a couch without holes in it, and they had a nice bathroom with a shiny white toilet and tub and pretty silver sink faucets. I tested them, and the water ran so clear. 'Course, I didn't drink it 'cause it was, after all, bathroom water, and I'd heard once to only drink water from a kitchen faucet, not a bathroom one.
I walked from room to room, Susie at my heels. It was a snowy night, and the house was chilly, so I didn't dawdle while I investigated things. Passing by Mr. and Mrs. Dennis's bedroom, I grew particularly curious. (I had to share a bunk-bed with my brother in my parents' room!!!!! What would it be like to have a bedroom all to myself?) MERCY! Shoot, what would it be like to have a nickel to buy a candy bar? And that's when I saw it -- the mile-high pile of coins sprawled out on the bedside stand. There were quarters, nickels, pennies, dimes, half-dollars. MY! You name it. There had to be at least $2000 worth of change there.
Without a moment's hesitation, I walked up to that little table and scooped up every bit of that change, well, as much as my two coat pockets could carry. Quickly, I gave Susie her food and water, then grabbed the house key, let myself out, and locked up, padding through the fresh falling snow on the way back to my house, my heavy coat weighed down by all the coinage, my heart also carrying a little extra weight.
I AM A TERRIBLE THIEF. Even with The Red Skelton Hour turned up at full blast, my dad still asked when I hung my coat up on the hook by the door, "What's that jingling in your pocket?"
"Huh?" I asked, throat as dry as a sand dune in August.
Mom raised her gaze from her sewing project. "Is that money I hear in your pocket?" I gave a slow, methodical nod. Wow, that was a short-lived landfall. "Where'd you get money?" The logical question.
I burst into tears, certain of the spanking that was sure to come following my confession. "I took it off of Mr. Dennis's bedside stand." I clapped a hand over my butt, preparing for the stinging slap.
"Lay it all out on the table," Dad said.
"Huh? Why? I'll just take it back," I said.
"You do what your dad said." Why did Mom always have to go along with him?
I emptied my pockets onto our ancient round oak table with the monstrous legs on casters. They made a shattering noise when they spilled out across the wide expanse. It took several handfuls before I finally accomplished the task.
"That's a lot of money," Dad said.
"Now can I take it back?" I asked. "I didn't mean to take it."
"No, I think we'll wait."
"The Dennis's will be home in two days. You can return it to Mrs. Dennis on Monday morning--and also explain what you did."
"Mom will walk over there with you, but you'll do all the talking."
No amount of tears would change his mind, so for the next two days I had to plan out what I would say and picture in my mind how the very nice and friendly Mrs. Dennis would take to the idea of my stealing all the change from their bedroom table.
I think I stumbled my way through my confession and even received her forgiveness, and here's the thing. She asked me many times after that to take care of Susie, but not once was I tempted to ransack their drawers, look at their bedside furniture, or sit on their chairs. In fact, since that day I don't recall stealing another thing in my life.
Lesson learned? Absolutely!